Miriam Novalle is a serial entrepreneur, since 1992 focused on the many benefits of tea. She opened T Salon that year, and was named by the New York Times the "Tea Guru." Her first entreprenuerial effort was Body Sense, a company focused on healthy and environmentally responsible cosmetic products. From there, she shifted into fragrances, which became a natural path to tea. She currently operates both T Salon and High Tea; through both she has made giving back to the community a priority. The "healing power of tea" has been made available to victims of Hurricane Sandy and many more; the Clinton Coalition for Haiti, Super Saturday for Ovarian Cancer Research, and the Revlon Run for Breast Cancer are among beneficiaries.
Barb: Our guest today, Miriam Novalle, has moved through several evolutions, always including entrepreneurship. She founded and then led Body Sense, cosmetics and personal care products that are good for health and the planet. That was followed by years in the fragrance and perfume industry before she entered the world of tea. She’s founded two organizations, T Salon and High Tea, and I hope we’ll talk about both of them. Welcome, Miriam.
Miriam: Well, thank you for having me! I’m so excited and thrilled. Thank you for the moment, the time, and the place.
Barb: Yes. Well, we’re here to talk to listeners about just traversing life and all the changes that come with it. And many of us at midlife are thinking about reinvention, and it sounds like you’ve been reinventing all along the way.
Barb: So, tell me a little about how reinvention has been a reoccuring theme in your life.
Miriam: Wow, well I think that reinvention—believing that you could do it, is the start. I mean, it really comes from the core of your inside gut, intuitive gut, that you trust your intuitive gut, that you know that you have the capability of doing anything you want. There isn’t reinventing, it’s just introducing a new way of breathing, looking, and feeling. And I think that a lot of people get feared by, “Oh can I do it?” I say, just touch your stomach, feel your gut, which this morning after a big holiday... I don’t want to feel my gut. [laughs]
Miriam: It's a big gut at this point. We’ll just go with the word intuitive. I think you really realize that we are much more powerful than we make ourselves out to be and, we are incredible creatures of the possibilities.
Barb: And do you think that each of us is inherently wired to take those kinds of risks and move forward with those kinds of intuitions versus others?
Miriam: I think that’s an interesting question, does everyone have the capability? Yes. Do they want to take it on? No. Is it overwhelming to them? Yes. Some people are just very happy in their everyday going in, breathing, doing, and just being who they are; and there’s others who are serial entrepreneurs, that have that core, I’m sorry to say it but, it’s like a disease, you’ve just to do it, you’ve got a sense that it could happen. And in the ride, you just get such a thrill of being in the ride of possibility, that that excites you completely.
Barb: So do you think it’s reinvention and that for yourself, that you’ve done this over and again, that that has been part of your success?
Miriam: Yes. I think that I trust my intuitive, I have great luck. Luck is one, you can’t eliminate that word, luck is one, intuitive, understanding, seeing the big picture, believing in it, and then having a great group of friends that circle around you, that hold up the wall of possibilities. Women’s groups, friends, girlfriends, men friends, that are just on the phone all the time and reassuring that you are on the right path, that you’re not just dreaming up something. No, I think that you need a good backbone of friends around you, a good core group.
Barb: So how did you make the transition from fragrance to tea?
Miriam: Not that—it was very easy. You know, I’m a self-trained "nose," so when I sold my company, I was introduced to Herb Alpert of A&M Records. And he had always wanted to do a fragrance, and I didn’t know who he was, and I didn’t know he owned A&M, so I said, sure. And I moved out to California with my family and created a fragrance. We were very lucky. We sold it in a very short period of time. I was very excited and flush and our core love is painting, so I signed up for a course in Italy, Florence, my favorite place on the planet, and took a summer of art at Lorenzo de Medici. At the time when I did that, my sister proceeded to call me and tell me that she’s about to marry an Englishman, this was 25 years ago, and you’re in Italy, so why don’t you come over to Liverpool, where I’m about to live and meet the family. And so I took my daughter and I and we took a train and we went to London and went to Liverpool and met the family.
They were very proper, beautiful, very English, old Liverpudlian family, and they had afternoon tea. And I never had afternoon tea. It was scones and devon cream and jam and all these cute little sandwiches. And then we drank the tea and I said, “Wow! I thought the English knew everything about tea.” And I realized, she said, “Aren't you such an entrepreneur. You know, I bet you could make a good cup of tea.” So I did. I took my daughter with me, and I was flush at the moment, and we traveled, and we traveled, and traveled, and we drank tea all over the world. And realized that everybody drank tea! Except for Americans, except when you were sick. Then your mother would say, “Let me make you a cup of tea.”
So I came back and opened up my first tea salon below the Guggenheim Museum in Soho. Yes, it should have been cute and small and tiny, and it wasn’t. It was 5,000 square feet, 259 seats, 17 people in the kitchen, an 80-foot sushi bar, and we sold hundreds of teas that my nose created and blended. And it was fabulous. It was so much fun. It kept growing, and building other places and, you know, it just continued to be what it was. It was delicious and fun.
Barb: So where you source your tea? Where were your resources to create these flavors and combinations?
Miriam: Well, tea only comes from five different regions in the world. It’s China, Japan, Africa being almost number one, India—Darjeeling—these are the places that you get tea. But the truth is, there’s only a few places in the world that really blend teas for hundreds of years, and that’s Hamburg, Germany. And they are the oldest blenders in the world, and they have a free port where all the teas from China (that’s funny), and all the teas from India, and Japan, and Africa, and Nepal, and wherever they’re coming from—land at the Hamburg port and then it goes into these blenders. And I was honored to have—because of my nose, they let me in their labs. And I put on a white coat, and I started taking their whole formulas of herbs and flowers and oils from all over the world and I started blending. And at that point, in the 1990s, they weren’t blending a lot. They didn’t understand what I was doing in the lab. They said, “Well, you can put a little mint in there, and a little chamomile,” and I said, “No, no, no, let’s get exotic.” Which I did! I took floral notes and herbs and then I realized that something was about to explode. And it did. And it did. And the whole world started drinking blended teas, and it started in 1992, and that’s what we created.
Barb: So you were one of the first to actually create some of these more abundant flavors and combinations of tea?
Miriam: I did! Welcome to my world.
Barb: And was it a direct result of your background in perfumes and fragrances that led you to that?
Miriam: Yes, yes, it was. Well, being a painter helped. Because colors help. Because it can’t just smell good, it’s got to taste great, and it’s got to look great. So when you open up the bag and you look down into this glorious array of flowers and herbs and fragrance and color, there’s no way of not wanting to sit back and have a great cup of tea.
Barb: So what are some of the benefits of enjoying tea?
Miriam: Tea: It’s hundreds of years old, first of all, it’s thousands of years old. The Chinese started it; they say a Buddhist monk was sitting under a tree and that a leaf fell into his cup. And they say that he realized that there was something there in his meditation that kept him awake, alert, and feeling great. And that was camellia sinensis. The Latin term for tea. And in doing so, that has followed suit, it is truly one of the most physically, emotionally, healing ways, it has something that happens that nurtures you, in holding that cup in your hand. And you sit back and you drink that tea and there’s just, you have a glow, and aura, a vibrational tone, that changes everything around you. That you just get—you’ve entered the doorway to heaven.
Barb: For those listening, how would you recommend those of us who maybe don’t have a background of tea experiences, so what’s the best way to be introduced to this idea of selecting and enjoying teas?
Miriam: It’s who, it’s like always, who are you buying from. It’s about their integrity and their transparency, and their ability to always go to their growers, and to keep their trade organic, and all the qualities that it takes to make a great cup of tea. It’s all about who you buy from, and what hits your palate. It can’t be price. Because if you are looking for the cheapest tea, it’s like anything else. I mean, if you want a great pair of shoes, and you want it to be comfortable, you’re going to just sometimes have to pay a little bit more and your feet are so happy. And it’s the same way with tea. You have to smell it, taste it, you look at the profile. And you see, if you are milk drinker, if the tea holds up—it’s called the creaming the tea—and if the tea holds up to milk and the color is still rich and creamy, then you know you have a great cup of tea. And the smell, you can just feel it, the aroma just comes within you and you just know, ahhh, this is great. You’ve come home.
Barb: So what is your morning routine? Or what does your day look like, and how do you incorporate tea into your routines?
Miriam: Oh God, well you know, it changes from holiday season [laughs] it really does. It really fluctuates with holidays, it fluctuates with seasons, it fluctuates with a time zone and where I’m travelling, and what I’m doing.
I have never really liked the Earl Greys. It’s bergamot, Italian lemon, that makes Earl Greys, probably worldwide one of the more conventional ways of getting into the tea world, but I never liked it. It was a little too perfumey, it’s the base for men’s perfumes. But, about four years ago, somebody, I can’t drop names on this podcast, because it’s someone international and she asked me, would I make a great Earl Grey for a celebration in England? And I said, oh I’d love to. God, what an opportunity. So I did. I made a tea, a bergamot, I took bergamot, Italian lemon, and I added, because I do have a terrible sweet tooth, not sweet, I don’t make sweety teas, it’s not my MO. But I added molasses, a crystalized molasses, and it turned out amazing; and it’s called the Queen of Earl (I’ll let your imagination figure out the rest of who it is for). But, the Queen of Earl, I love it, I’ve got everyone addicted to it, but it just loves to sit back in the morning or the afternoon. I use goat milk, almond milk, cashew milk, I use ‘em all. I’m not attached to it. I’m tried to get off milk the last couple of years, because it’s been years of doing lactose the last couple years, so I’ve tried to use goat milk and cashew milk.
Barb: So it sounds to me like you’re describing a little bit, a wine. Not every Chardonnay is the same, while it has the same label, there’s a great variety under the label. So, not all Earl Greys are going to be the same flavor.
Miriam: No, there’s no Earl Grey that is the same. It’s the blender you’re talking to. You’re talking of the consistency of the leaf, the consistency of the bergamot, there are hundreds of bergamots, and working as a perfumer—and I want to do a men’s fragrance—I had hundreds of choices of roses, bergamots, patchoulis, sandalwoods, gardenias, jasmines. There’s no one jasmine. It's the notes of the jasmine, where it comes from, how it’s heated, how it’s extracted. The same thing with tea. Who are the people who are picking the leaf? Who are the families that are there, generation after generation, that I go visit, that are picking the leaf and are so proud of their estates and their hectares that they own and grow and how they ferment, wither, and roll their leaf. And what they put in it the next generation of, me, who takes it to the next level. So yes, it’s all very similar to wine, it has the estates, it has the different profiles, the notes—the woody notes, the floral notes. Yes, when I do a tea tasting, I could come up to a hundred cups of teas that I will sip, slurp, and then air out into my mouth and same as wine, and then spit into a spitting bowl.
Miriam: Oh well, we just entered my new world! I’m so excited, thank you for mentioning it! My sister got ovarian cancer ten years ago. And when she got that, she was, she’s a monk, she had an amazing, wonderful very peaceful life in her ashram. And she believes that she stayed around for ten years, because of her ability and prayers. And one of the other things that she was doing was called CBD. She was taking an oil and a product that she would digest every day and I said, “Hannah, what is that?” And she said, “It’s helping me with my nausea, it’s before and after chemo, it’s helping me sleep at night, it takes my swelling down.” And I said, “What is this magical thing you are taking?” And she told me, and I did a little bit of research. Miriam Novalle, being who she is, a serial entrepreneur, did some travelling: went to Colorado, went to Kentucky, went to all the places that were growing what we classify as hemp. Not cannabis, similar, same plant, looks alike, smells alike, but no THC, that gets you high. Yes, in Colorado they have CBD with THC kicks it off, but I’m in the state of New York, I don’t believe in putting THC in anything at anytime, whatever rules get passed. I like a clarity to my head, with the understanding that it can have it all day long.
So T Salon, 1992, 610 blends, I took 14 of my kids that I loved and I went to Ashland, Oregon, and took the buds right off the plant and added it into my blends. And extraordinary things happened.
Barb: So the buds off the plant, specifically the buds off the plants were the hemp.
Miriam: That is correct. I took the buds, not leaves, not stems, not any other the part, I went right to the source of the elegance of its flower. And I added into mine and we started creating blends, and it has been a joyous, magical ride to hearing the stories of you know, cancer wards that we do, hospice wards that we do, yoga centers, spas, nutritional centers. Fairways of New York, they’ve launched it in 17 stores to millions of people, and it’s been just wonderful to hear the stories of how it’s helped Parkinson's. And it’s helped people who sat there with this shake in their hand. And all of a sudden sat back and for just a few minutes their whole life is changed.
Barb: So how do you recommend individuals consider using one of the teas with CBD? Would the person who just enjoys a cup of tea every morning consider that? Or only those that have specific kind of health-related needs?
Miriam: No, no, no, no. It’s good for everyone. You’ve had a long flight, and you’re jet lagged and you just want to get a great night's sleep. You want to chill out from the anxiety of a roller coaster ride on the stock market, you know, which we’ve had this ending of this year. You know, I don’t want to get political in anyway, but you know, we all need to destress. At lots of different levels, and it could just be from a long day, your kids went to sleep and they were driving you crazy, and you sit back and you have a cup of tea and there’s just something—No!—you do not get high, there’s no THC, but it relaxes, it connects to the cannabinoids in your body, and it goes to all those points in your shoulders, in your back, in your arms. You kind of sit back and there’s a release of, “Ohhh, that feels good!”
So it could be for anyone. It could be for kids who are going through cancer right now, they’re going through leukemia, and going through all those issues for children that have all those kind of like, nervous, you know things that are going on. For war veterans that are coming back, that don't want to sit back and do cannabis and don’t want psychedelics, but they would like to do something that just cuts the tension of coming back from being away, and being back into the whole world of reality.
If I had millions of dollars, I would go to all those immigrants who are at the border and all those kids who are lying in blankets on floors and just give them, you know, make up a whole batch and serve it to them. If I had a sponsor, I’d go do that immediately. You know.
Barb: And is that a tea that you need to purchase already prepared? It’s not in the leaf form, where you would, at home prepare the tea?
Miriam: Oh, I have it in cold brew. You can have a bottle. You can have it shipped immediately. Just go on hightea.today and go see our cold brews. There’s bottles in 12 ounces that we already have pre-bottled; you can just put it in your fridge and have it whenever you come home. You can put it in your car in your thermos keep it chilled and do it. Or you can buy eight grams and make a quart of it in your home, cold or hot, cold brewed or heated, You can have it in chocolate, you can have it in creams, you can have it even—we just did a line of tub teas, because I’m addicted to the tub. All my great ideas come in the bathtub. So me and the tub have a very serious relationship. So I sat there and said, “Now if I added flowers and herbs and hemp, I wonder what would happen?" And it would come right into your body, into all your pores, and there you are sitting in heaven. So I made a line of tub teas.
Barb: And I read on your website that you also have some resources for cooking with tea. Can you talk just a little bit about that?
Miriam: Well, I work with a gentleman, Micah Hyman; he’s Dr. Mark Hyman’s son. Micah and I do dinners all over the world. And he cooks with it, he bakes with it, he makes Thai soups with it; he and I have friends who make cookies with it, cakes with it, desserts with it, salad dressings with it, oils that they saturate with it and let it sit for 24 hours. And salad dressings, yeah. You can cook with it, I cook with it all the time.
We did a series of Shabbat—Friday night dinners—and every Friday night, people would come, like 20, 15, 18, 25, 30, sometime we got up to 100 at one point. And they would do just prayers and Shabbat and Friday night dinners and the whole meal was cooked with CBD and we drank and it was fabulous! And and an EBCBD cocktails—with tequila was amazing!
Barb: You sound like a fun person to hang out with!
Miriam: [laughs] You are welcome to join us anytime! Just give us a call anytime you’d like to have a dinner, and Micah and I will show up. And he does, he’s all over the world, and we show up and I become the CBD angel, and he becomes this organic health warrior that he is, and we cook and have a great time! It’s about the year of 2019. It’s about feeling great. It’s about taking care of ourselves, going back to the hub of who we are.
Barb: And I think that’s a great message to send to all of us, and especially the women who are listening to this, I know they are at a season of life that they can benefit from some of those things that you have provided.
On your website, you also talk about some of your contributions to social and environmental causes. Can you talk a little bit more about that. You alluded to that bit before, in your wish for immigrants. How are you motivated in that way?
Miriam: Oh, please! I’m motivated on every turn on every corner on every march on every walk on every vision board that I do. I do a vision board with a lady named Barbara Biziou every year, and we look at the board and we create with women and there all of us there, you know, putting our boards together for 2019 and who do we want to help? And making sure that the planet has trees, and that children have good meals at their schools, and that you’re dealing with all these, we give—because of my sister—to the Ovarian Cancer Society. I give to the Shoah Foundation because both of my parents are Holocaust survivors and they’re both passed, so we donate to the Shoah Foundation for years, and it’s a big organization in the United States. And we do so many—there isn’t a time that the phone doesn’t ring and they say, “Would you be with us? We’re doing a wellness weekend.” And I’ll say, “Where is it?” And they mention it, and if it works, if it feels good, I’ll just know that it’s important to be hands-on. We have to. Who’s going to do it if we don’t?
Barb: You’re absolutely right! You can’t stand to the side and hope somebody else is going to stand up and carry the torch. So good for you.
Miriam: No! No! You have to! You don’t have a choice. You can’t say, “I’m too busy,” “I have this and I have that.” You can’t. Pick what resonates in your gut, pick what feels good, that you’re going to be making a difference, if it’s feeding the homeless, feeding the kids, going inside a school and making sure that they’re having the right meals. I have two grandkids, so that’s why I’m always thinking about that, making sure that they’re really protected. Because we’re here already. We’ve done it. It’s the next generation we’re working towards, you know?
Barb: So we’re talking about partnering with my website and your tea. But, tell our listeners where they can find out more about or purchase or have access to your teas and what you’re providing.
Miriam: Well, you and I are going to have so much fun putting a whole list together of what fabulous things that can go on your website, and find it soon. But, while they’re waiting to see what we come up together, we could look at TSalon.com and there’s also HighTea.today and we have a surprise new site that’s coming up that we’re working on right now, that’s just being organized this week. So I have a whole new category of products coming out of hemp that’s coming up and fun. But, I’m looking forward to us having all your readers come up and join your club and get a tea every month from you.
Barb: Well, thank you for your time today, Miriam. I so admire your enthusiasm and all your efforts to continue to improve individuals’ quality of life, but overall society in your efforts. So, thank you so much!
Miriam: Thank you! I hope to hear from you soon. Have a great day. Happy 2019!
Barb: Same to you.